Sunday of Week 5 of Lent (Year B)

Commentary on Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 12:20-33

We are just one week away from Holy Week and our celebration of God’s love for us in Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. Today we look at the meaning of what Jesus did for us. Jesus is the fulfilment of the New Covenant that Jeremiah prophesied about in the First Reading.

In today’s Gospel, some Greeks, probably converts to Judaism, approach Philip (whose name is Greek), saying:

Sir, we wish to see Jesus.

Philip tells Andrew (also a Greek name) and they both go with the request to Jesus. We are not told if those men ever did see Jesus, but we do know what seems at first sight the rather strange response that Jesus gave to his disciples:

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain, but if it dies it bears much fruit.

The grain, of course, does not actually die, but is totally transformed into something completely new: roots, leaves and fruit. Similarly, a caterpillar lets go of being a caterpillar to become transformed into something altogether different and often much more beautiful – a moth or butterfly.

Seeing Jesus
To see Jesus is not just to look at him, which is what those Greeks presumably wanted (recall the curiosity of the tax collector, Zacchaeus, who climbed a sycamore tree to get a better look at Jesus as he passed by underneath.) To see Jesus is to enter totally into his way of thinking, to understand why he had to suffer and die and rise again.

Like the grain of wheat, Jesus has to let go of everything, including his own life, in order to bring new life to himself and those who believe in him. In the process, both he and we will be transformed. If we cannot see this as the core of Jesus’ life, we have not really seen him.

But Jesus goes further and says we must have the same way of thinking:

Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

And, if we want to be close to Jesus, we have to walk his Way:

Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

It means walking with Jesus and with Mary all the way to Calvary, wherever that happens to be for each of us.

Ready to let go and let God
Are we ready for that? Are we afraid to let everything go? Is Jesus asking too much? Let us have no doubt, Jesus himself was afraid, deeply afraid:

Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say: ‘Father, save me from this hour’?

It is clear that is the prayer Jesus would like to pray. The Second Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews puts it graphically:

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death…

Letting go did not come any more easily to Jesus than it does to us. But, after his prayer, when he sweat blood in fear and trembling, he was able to say “yes” because:

Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered, and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…

As Jesus himself says at the end of today’s Gospel:

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

“Lifted up” refers to the cross:

He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

But “lifted up” also refers to the glory of the Father where we are invited to follow.

So today, let us learn to see Jesus, the Jesus of the Gospel. The Jesus who let go of everything for us and who invites us to be with him all the way. Let us pray for his courage and his trust in his Father, that the life and happiness and fulfilment we all long for is in that letting go and letting God.

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